Saturday, November 06, 2010


It's Autumn, and time for the old theme: Self-Portrait with Self-Portrait, or, Two Paulas, one with a big, black prosthetic eye.

I am bound by my body and my history. Maybe that's why I so admire the autumnal community garden, a dilapidating shanty-town of cultivars and weeds.

At the bedrock is Blue Willow, and the child dreaming herself into the quiet blue and white ceramic landscape. The child building huts out of chairs and blankets, saplings and pine boughs.

I have a small collection of books about huts and hut-like places/objects. Margaret Morton's "Fragile Dwellings" and "The Tunnel" form the heart of this collection, along with Harvey Wang's "Flophouse"and, Waldman's book about Joseph Cornell's Boxes, "Master of Dreams."

That's the charm of the community garden: the plots are delimited by walls of all species of wire and grid, bound together by ligatures as random and varied as vines, and they contain objects that, in their repose and isolation, seem strangely significant.. They are not planned communities, with each facade, by regulation, adhering to carefully expounded parameters. They are as organic as the crops that, in summer, they host.

And it's also not a gated community: it allows the likes of me, as far from gardener as anyone can be, to roam freely with my camera, mooching off the labors of others.

Of course, I have not come to eat, only to look, following the crucial distinction made by Simone Weil, who, though drawn inexorably to Catholicism, deliberately chose not to enter the Church as long as it continued to pronounce the anathema sit of exclusion. She felt solidarity, she said, with all the excluded outsiders. She belonged with them. She would gaze at, and not eat the Eucharist.

There is a admirable and wild purity to that view and stance.

How can we happily consume the salvific delights of the initiate when anyone is kept from the table anywhere within the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church ?

Churches, unlike garden plots, don't tend to have permeable walls, walls lashed collegially to one another by wire and twine.

Christianity, despite the putative transcending of legalism by its Lord's new admonition to love God and neighbor, is rife with rule books. Just ask a canon lawyer, for example, what non-Catholic, and under what circumstances, and by what chain of authorization, can receive Catholic Eucharist. The answer will astound you in its complexity.

Lately, I have been in a state of perpetual religious exasperation. Everything rankles. And I think I know what's wrong.

Anthropomorphism. God is a man. With a son. Guys with dicks. It all flows from there -- the (hetero)sexist language, the hierarchies, the patriarchies, the oppression, the subjugation, the exclusion, the derision, the rulebooks, the ramparts, the holy wars.

I hadn't realized until this week that the Roman Catholic iteration of the Nicene Creed says For us MEN and our salvation/ He came down from heaven. I'd heard it dozens of times and instinctively overwrote it with the BCP's for us and our salvation.

Needless to say the topic of inclusive religious language is not undiscussed on the internets -- often with jeering derision as a quasi-theocidal lapse from orthodoxy.

So, insofar as "religion" writ large is safe haven for theologically rationalized and sanctified gender-based oppression, shouldn't we outsiders, in soldarity, abstain ?

The notion of God as a "Father" with a "Son" who is the "Lord" determines the whole language and structure and liturgy of Christian practice; with Christ, the Infinite Ground Of Being Itself, if It did not already have one, acquires a phallus.

The scandal of particularity has become a scandal of masculinity. Sorry, ladies, God is a boy !

And, by tortured extension, a scandal of heterosexual, madly procreating masculinity.

And it will be that way for as long as the boys are in charge of the prayerbooks and the catechisms and all the religious lexicons. Lex orandi, lex credendi and all that.

As I said, exasperated.

As the poet Jules Laforgue said, "The moon does not bear a grudge." The moon also does not not bear a grudge. Moon and grudge inhabit two different universes of discourse.

There is a Godly lesson in that.

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